Two white men in Manchester, Connecticut have been arrested for allegedly chasing a group of black teens who were riding bikes, following them in a Jeep, and using racial slurs. Matthew and Michael Lemelin allegedly chased the teens after seeing them pass in front of their house on Sunday, June 21. Now the brothers face stiff charges, while the town of Manchester rallies around the three boys.
The teens, aged 13, 14 and 15, told authorities the incident began when they rode their bikes past the Lemelin home. They say they were on their way to pick up diapers when a white man, later identified as Matthew Lemelin, began yelling and shouting racial slurs at them.
The boys rode on, until they say Matthew appeared again, pursuing them in a Jeep Cherokee with his brother Michael. At this time, the boys told police, the Jeep accelerated toward them, nearly hitting one of them. According to the Daily Mail, at least one witness has come forward to corroborate this part of the story.
Next, the teens say one of the men exited the car and pursued them on foot. One boy was forced to leave his bike as he fled, which the man then stole. The boys managed to reach some bushes, where they hid and called 911.
A Mother Fights Back
Furious over the incident, Christina Torres, mother to one of the teens, went to the Lemelins’ home to confront them on Sunday, but the brothers never answered, according to the Daily Mail. However, the outlet reports that police were later able to contact and arrest the two men.
The brother have reportedly denied chasing the boys, with Michael claiming that he was giving Matthew a ride to the store. He also said that Matthew had been intoxicated and yelling racial slurs, although he claimed not to know who his brother was yelling at.
However, authorities say that surveillance footage from a nearby business tells a different story. The footage reportedly shows the Jeep circling in search of the teens — the “exact opposite of what Michael Lemelin claimed had happened,” police said.
Prior Racist Incident
The Hartford Courant reports that this is the second racially-charged incident Matthew Lemelin has been involved in over the last two months. On May 20, police arrested him after an incident where he broke a car window. Reportedly, Matthew had to be incapacitated with a stun gun during the arrest. He was also heard using racial slurs against a black arresting officer.
In addition, the boys say witnesses on the scene told them more about the Lemelin brothers, including that they were fond of yelling “white lives matter.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that if they got their hands on these little boys, they were going to hurt them,” Torres told CBS CT. “We have to stand together because this could’ve been very different. I could have woke up on Sunday morning hearing that my child died.”
Both men now face charges related to risk of injury to minors, reckless endangerment and breach of peace, with Matthew also being charged with intimidation based on bigotry and bias.
Meanwhile, a rally was held in Manchester on Monday, June 22, in support of the victims. The event included the donation of three new bikes to the boys by a local business, though they were not in attendance.
According to Keren Prescott, founder of Power Up Manchester and an organizer of the event, the idea was to promote solidarity and accountability in the community.
“We are coming here together to say that if this should happen again in this community, we’re going to find you, we’re going to make sure the police hold you accountable. We’re going to hold the police accountable,” Prescott told CBS CT.